BOSTON — Northeastern (13-16-5, 9-13-5) has struggled with Boston University (18-7-9, 13-6-8) over the past two seasons. They were swept by the Terriers last year and already had lost to them twice this season.
But times are changing on Huntington Avenue. The Huskies have already won almost five times as many games as they did last season, and came ever so close to a .500 record. Wednesday, on Senior Night, the Huskies got back on track after a rough weekend and defeated BU by a score of 4-2.
Northeastern jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first and never lost the lead, no matter how hard the Terriers pressed.
“You could tell when we went into to address the team before the game, you could see they were ready to play.” Northeastern head coach Greg Cronin said. “When we play hard and we play smart, we are a hard team to play against.”
“I think it’s guys that want to play hard and win their last regular-season game going into the playoffs. They did it, we didn’t.” a reserved Jack Parker said. “I think we’ve played great on the road all year; this is our only second loss on the road all year long … Most of the time, John Curry stands on his head till we get going. That didn’t happen tonight. We left him out to dry.”
Freshmen forward Kyle Kraemer netted his first of two goals at 13:41 of the first period, beating Curry five-hole. Jimmy Russo and Aaron Moore collected assists. It was Moore’s first point of the season in only his second game. The goal by NU broke a scoring drought of 133 minutes and 22 seconds against the Terriers.
“The first goal was our system play — we chipped it up the board and made it two on one. Curry is a great goalie and I was going to go glove, but changed my mind at the last second and decided to go five-hole.” Kraemer said.
Northeastern continued a tough, physical brand of hockey throughout the first and then struck again at 17:30, when Chad Costello sent a cross-ice pass to Joe Vitale, who nailed a slapshot past Curry sending the announced crowed of 2,956 into a frenzy. The goal was Vitale’s seventh of the year. Dennis McCauley got the assist.
Going into the locker rooms the Huskies had outplayed, outhustled, and outworked the Terriers for a majority of the period and also had a two-goal lead. The last time NU carried a two-goal lead into the locker room after the first, the Terriers battled back and ended up winning that game by a score of 4-3.
BU answered in the second with a goal of its own at 9:09, on the power play with Jimmy Russo in the box for the Huskies. Matt Gilroy shot a puck through traffic that found its way to the back of the net as NU goalie Brad Thiessen was screened by more than a couple of players. Pete MacArthur and Bryan Ewing added assists on the extra-man tally.
About a minute later NU scored again when Bryan Esner made a brilliant move on the BU defense, leaving Kraemer all alone in front of the net. Esner fired of a pass to Kraemer, who tapped it behind a sprawled Curry. Louis Liotti also got an assist.
“This goal was all Bryan Esner. It was a four-on-four goal. He used his speed and flew by the whole D. The D let me go, the goalie went at Bryan and Bryan passed it across. That goal was all him. I did the easy part, I just tapped it in.
That made the score 3-1, where it would stand for the rest of the second period as the end-to-end rushes continued for both teams.
It was around this time in the second that BU defender Kevin Schaeffer hobbled off the ice. Schaeffer, who suffered a knee injury, missed the rest of the game, and is expected to miss at least a few weeks.
Also of note, Northeastern senior captain Mike Morris, who has been out of the lineup for the past few games, is also not expected to return the rest of the season due to injury, according to Cronin.
Headed into the third, the Huskies seemed to be content to sit back on defense, but the Terriers managed to break through and add another goal on the visitors’ side of the scoreboard. MacArthur took a shot from the point on which Thiessen made the easy save, kicking the puck away. Unfortunately for Thiessen, he kicked it right to a surprised Ewing, who just pushed it right back at the net and scored. Eric Gryba also got an assist.
Holding onto the one-goal lead, the Huskies shifted their focus to defense, but penalties would be the end of the Terriers. In the last four minutes of the game the Terriers took two penalties which severely limited their offensive chances.
Esner put the final nail in the coffin for Northeastern with an empty-net goal at 19:45. It was a fitting sendoff for a senior class that has gone through significant adversity, including a coaching change and last year’s three-win season. Another senior, Ray Ortiz, got an assist.
“We beat a good team, and won the last game at home, it just feels good,” Esner said.
On the night, Thiessen made 30 saves and Curry 25 in his final regular-season game. The BU power play went 1-3 and NU went 0-6.
It was the first win over the Terriers for Cronin, including his tenure as interim coach at Maine.
Both teams have concluded regular season play and will be watching this weekend to find out who they will be playing in the first round of the playoffs. Northeastern will finish seventh in the conference and BU will either finish second or third depending on how Boston College does against New Hampshire. BU could be hosting NU in the first round if UNH sweeps Boston College.